The paper examines the growth of China's regional grain production during the reform period. Impacts of regional trends on China's interregional grain transfers and international trade are tackled. It finds that there are significant variations between regions in terms of magnitudes and patterns of growth. Northern regions experienced a faster growth than southern regions. There is a tendency to shift grain production centres towards north, leading to a modification of crop composition in total national output, a reversal of the prevailing direction of interregional transfers and a change in contents of grain flows. The study argues that this shift is an inevitable result of the uneven progress of reforms and economic development and, consequently, the varying opportunity costs of grain production in different regions. The analysis suggests that for China as a whole, further growth of grain output has been impeded by the lack of new technologies and increasingly high opportunity costs of grain production. In the northeast region where the potential for increasing maize output is relatively high, production has been constrained by the shortage of transport and storage facilities as well as policy obstacles. The study concludes that there is a necessity for China to decentralize its grain international trade. In doing so, the imports of grain in the south will increase, and so will the exports of maize in the north. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.